Ang Lee can use cutting-edge technology to make some beautiful films. Scenes from “The Life of Pi” are still etched in my brain. There’s also the case, as with “Gemini Man,” that all that technology can’t bridge the mind-cracking gap that is the Uncanny Valley. Lee can shoot it in as many frames per second as he likes, but the young Will Smith just looks odd and unsettling.
In “Gemini Man” Henry Brogan (Will Smith) is the world’s greatest assassin. The movie opens with him shooting a guy in the neck on a moving train. But, like most older assassins we meet in the movies, Brogan wants to be done with all this killing. That old hitman trope: good at killing people, bad at dealing with it.
We also know from assassin movies that once the assassin wants to move on with their life the government, they work for is less that thrilled with the proposition. Soon after his announcement of retirement Brogan is ambushed by countless federal agents sent to kill him.
Soon another assassin enters the picture who seems like he’s just as good as Brogan. Innovative, deadly, and relentless. We know from the trailers and all the promotion for this movie that this assassin is Brogan’s clone. That’s the whole selling point of the movie. Come watch Will Smith fight Will Smith.
The clone is a digitally-altered Will Smith. Lee has used de-aging technology to make Will Smith look kind of like – but, also nothing like – his younger self. After a few close-ups of the clone it’s clear that the effect isn’t working. Millions of dollars used to make Will Smith look young and it still looks rather cheap.
There are some intense action scenes, which are interrupted by nap-inducing periods of exposition. They spend so much time here discussing the plot, which is rather quite easy to figure out, that all the action scenes don’t pack the punch they might otherwise.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays a federal agent that teams up with Brogan. She’s got some great parts and a kick-butt fight scene. At least the movie sees fit to make her a female who can take care of herself and not one that needs saving all the time.
Another highlight is Clive Owen as a sneering black-ops government guy. It’s been a while since we’ve got to see Owen mug for the camera. He delights in these kinds of roles and I must admit it’s fun watching him in them. It’s too bad that his character is underwritten and underutilized.
Then there’s those cringe-worthy moments where the screenplay attempts deep emotional scenes that are hobbled by the clunky de-aging. That’s not to mention that most of the emotion in this movie is unearned. We don’t know enough about Brogan to care about what makes him tick. He says he’s sad, but the movie never really shows us his demons. Instead it just tells us about them and it’s much less effective.
“Gemini Man” is being sold as this revolutionary thriller that uses top-notch tech to create a must-see event. The truth is that it’s run-of-the-mill as far as thrillers go (decent action, mediocre story) and doesn’t pay off as something that must be seen to be believed.